Don Friday is fortunate to still have a job after going 6-23 this season and a miserable 32-86 in four years at St. Francis, but he does deserve one more chance to see if he can turn around the Red Flash program.
Friday gets an asterisk for this disastrous season, in which SFU was competitive at home (5-8) but dreadful on the road (1-15). For all intents and purposes, the Flash's season ended in the final minute of their opener against VCU when their best player, guard Umar Shannon, tore his ACL and was lost for the year.
Shannon is the real deal. He scored 26 points in the VCU game and was second-team all-Northeast Conference last season.
Mirror photo by Patrick?Waksmunski
Don?Friday has had a tough time in four years at St.?Francis, compiling a 32-86 record.
It's tough enough for St. Francis to attract quality players to its remote Loretto campus. When a player the caliber of Shannon goes down, the depth-deprived Flash aren't the kind of program that can recover.
So Friday gets a one-year pass.
If he can't get the job done next year, however, it will be time for St. Francis to consider making a change.
Flash under Friday
Note: The team has gone 1-15 and 2-16 on the road the past two seasons.
"I think we all would have expectations that next year would be a breakthrough year for us when you look at the people we have coming back," St. Francis athletic director Bob Krimmel said.
It's believed that Friday will be entering the final year of his contract in 2012-13, although Krimmel would not confirm that, citing university policy. Krimmel did confirm, "I would think Don would be back next year."
Shannon will give the Flash a go-to guy as a junior, and 6-foot-8 Scott Eatherton is a skilled big man who averaged 14 points this season as a sophomore. Anthony Ervin, a solid wing man who averaged 11.2 points, will be the team's senior leader next year.
Those three players will give Friday a good nucleus, and talented freshmen Stephon Whyatt (7.2), Ollie Jackson (6.3) and Earl Brown (6.0) will be expected to step up their games as sophomores.
If Friday can't win 13 or 14 games with that group next year - he's never won more than 11 in a season at SFU - then he's probably not the right man for the job. He also needs to reach the eight-team NEC Tournament, and not just as a seventh or eighth seed with no shot of winning a first-round game.
"It will be the fifth year [under Friday] and so all the players now have been in the system and know about the coach, the expectations," Krimmel said.
"The bottom line is we have to win basketball games," the AD added. "We can only build so long, and we have to win. Don knows that."
The Flash suffered another big blow this season when point guard Chris Johnson was kicked off the team for an undisclosed violation in early December. A coach can't be totally responsible for one of his players' indiscretions, but Friday doesn't get a pass on the Johnson situation because an effective leader must be able to communicate with his key players and make sure they understand they can't get into that kind of trouble.
The biggest issue St. Francis faces - and it's been this way for a long, long time - is that the program is soft. A new strength and conditioning coach and regimen should help over time, but physical strength is only part of it.
The players are soft mentally, and that's never more evident than when the team goes on the road.
A 1-15 record away from home is pathetic. If that's not bad enough, the way the team completely fell apart and laid down in some road games was unacceptable.
Bookies will give a home team about three points on a betting line, meaning that home-court advantage is worth about three. This year, going on the road for St. Francis frequently meant enormous spreads that simply cannot be explained by anything other than a complete and total lack of focus.
The Flash beat Monmouth by 22 at home but lost on the road by 18, an incredible 40-point swing based on the venue. They beat Quinnipiac by three at home and lost by 33 on the road, a 36-point swing.
Not all examples are that bad, but as has been the case for many years, St. Francis is a vastly different team at home versus on the road.
"We have to do a better job on the road, without a doubt," said Krimmel, who admitted he gets frustrated as the AD seeing the program struggle year in and year out.
The Flash should at least expect to be competitive on the road, which has not been the case. They were 2-16 away from home last season, and the two-year total is 3-31.
"Next year needs to be a breakout year for us," Krimmel said. "That's critical, and part of it is winning those games on the road as well as at home. We've got to be a complete program."
St. Francis has not been that since Mike Iuzzolino graduated more than two decades ago.
To his credit, Friday has never been one to make excuses. He now knows all the reasons why St. Francis is an incredibly difficult job - one of the toughest in all of college basketball - and there's a chance that no coach could win consistently in Loretto.
Still, few coaches in any sport who have lost as consistently as Friday get to keep their jobs.
If he wants to keep his after next season, Friday has to start proving he deserves it. He has failed to do that up to this point.
Cory Giger is the host of "Sports Central" from 4 to 6 p.m. daily on ESPN Radio 1430 WVAM. Reach him at 949-7031 or @CoryGiger on Twitter.